Junior wide receiver sees Sugar Bowl as opportunity to continue program momentum

Laquon Treadwell could have gone anywhere in 2013. 

He held offers from all over as a consensus five-star prospect and the No. 1 wide receiver in the country by Scout.com. But he settled on five, with Ole Miss and Oklahoma State among his finalists.

Three years later, the Rebels and Cowboys are inching closer to a showdown in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 1 at 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPN, and Treadwell has cemented his place as one of the greatest players - let alone wide receivers - in Ole Miss history.

“That’s a great school, and I loved my visits there at the time,” Treadwell said.

He said he never came close to signing with Oklahoma State, despite the fact his primary recruiter was Mike Gundy and the Cowboys received one of his final official visits. He said he “fell in love” with Ole Miss and “just didn’t fit” at OSU, and he left it at that.

“They were just telling me, ‘If you want to catch 100 balls, come here.’ Their stats showed it,” Treadwell said. “Every year, they’ve got a guy that’s one of the top receivers in the country. Their scheme and the way they train their receivers, they have big boards and hand-eye coordination drills on the wall and just several different things that help their receivers be better. The way they watch film is the opposite of the way we watch film. They watch the front end and teach you just a lot about the wide receiver position.”

But Treadwell is long removed from recruiting pitches, coaching visits and the constant phone calls and texts. He’s likely nearing the end of his Rebel career. In all likelihood, the Sugar Bowl is all that’s left for him.

Treadwell, a Biletnikoff Award finalist, is the only SEC receiver with 1,000 yards this season. He’s the active career leader in receptions (96), receiving yards (2,322) and touchdown catches (18), and he set a school record with five-straight 100-yard receiving games. 

He’s currently rated the No. 11 NFL Draft prospect, and the No. 1 wide receiver, by ESPN.

“Legendary,” Treadwell said of playing in the Sugar Bowl. “It’s a legendary moment for us. We’ll be remembered forever for beating Alabama and all the top teams in the SEC West and then winning the Sugar Bowl at the end of the season, so that’s something we look forward to doing and keeping the momentum rolling.

“It’s big time. (Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze) spoke to us about us being the only team playing at night Jan. 1. That’s a big confidence builder for everyone just to be on a big stage and playing in front of a big crowd and big national audience. That’s probably one of the biggest bowls under the playoffs. We look forward to playing in it and keeping everything rolling.”

Ole Miss began preparations for Oklahoma State this week - six practices in pads, including a full-gear session Thursday, and two days of only conditioning and strength training before breaking for Christmas. 

Treadwell said the message from Freeze has been clear.

“He basically just kept it real with us,” he said. “He told us he won’t allow us to not work hard and not prepare well and just do all the little things right. Just sent the message to the whole team that to be great, you’ve got to do on and off the field. We’re not going up there to party. We’ll enjoy the bowl, but we’re not going up there to do all the other things. We’re out there to win the game. He just kept it straightforward and to the point with us.”

Ole Miss hit the ground running day one.

“We were flying around, getting the extra work and having fun as we usually do and competing at a high level,” Treadwell said. “We did a lot of competition stuff, so that always helps us keep the momentum going into the game. I think it was well. Everybody got a lot of reps, even the third-team guys got a lot of reps. The coaches are just getting everything ready for next year, but they’re still focusing on this year too.”

If the Sugar Bowl is indeed Treadwell’s final act, he’ll certainly be going out on a high note. He’s put up 76 catches and 1,082 yards and eight touchdowns and is seemingly only getting better, a somewhat remarkable feat considering his sophomore season was cut short to injury against Auburn. 

He said he hit his stride “about week five,” after Ole Miss lost to Memphis. “I just started playing at a higher intensity, believing in myself and trusting myself to make those plays.” He felt pain some throughout the year, especially in the first game when he felt his repaired ankle/lower leg popped a bit, but he hasn’t felt much of anything since. He’s returned to normal.

“Honestly every week, I just got better,” he said. “It was a mental battle for sure. Every week, I was battling my injury. Through the whole year, I’m getting better as the weeks are going on and getting more comfortable. At the end of the year, I just caught a roll and a rhythm. I was playing at a high level, and the plays were coming.”

And there are more plays to come - for one more game, at least.

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